The sentiments and perception change overnight in Indian politics and so does the mood of the electorate. The jubilant BJP which was looking invincible after the record victory in North Eastern states, received a humiliating blow in Uttar Pradesh when it lost two parliamentary by-elections including a long term Hindutva stronghold- Gorakhpur to Samajwadi - BSP combination by a simple cast equation formula. BJP is shell-shocked at the outcome which came as a huge embarrassment to the top leadership of the party. Electoral understanding between the two major players in the state where they happen to be also a major opposition and bitter rivals to each other are extremes and some rare example in recent past.
But, then the politics is all about exploring the impossibilities as Akhilesh Yadav rightly pointed out in one of the recent interviews that the BJP has taught them how to exploit other win- ability factors apart from the development work which fell short to win an election last year. And this is what the BJP Chief Strategist Amit Shah is worried about.
Now, the serious thought process has started in the BJP camp as the defeat has effected very negatively not only on the morale of the BJP- RSS cadre but also on the NDA partners ahead of 2019 General Election. The defeat has also exposed the vulnerability of the communal politics and despite the fact that the polarization is at its height and the society has never been so communally divided as it is today, BJP’s nightmare stems from the fact that similar state-level combinations of arch-rivals in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and several other states will jeopardize their chances of regaining power in 2019.
The BJP is also worried about the change in tone of their allies who are indicating to switch sides in case a larger anti-BJP front is formed. Allies like Chandra Babu Naidu and Ram Vilas Paswan cannot afford to go into the electoral battle with an anti-Dalit and anti-peasant image of the BJP. Nitish Kumar is also not as comfortable as he was in the previous BJP alliance and there are chances that he might also chose to change side. But the BJP’s biggest worry comes from within where a big chunk of disgruntled and disillusioned members of parliament, some of them, as powerful as Shatrurghan Sinha and Kirti Azad, can dent the party’s prospect in the election.
Now the question crops up whether the Congress Party is prepared to capitalize on the opportunities created by the Modi government’s failure in delivering on their promises and lead the anti-BJP combination from the front? The answer lies in the ground realities which do not present a very rosy picture for the congress party either. Learning from the past experiences, Congress Party should show magnanimity and large-heartedness in dealing with the regional stake holders. Fielding candidates in constituencies where it has no ground presence, thereby risking the division of the anti-BJP vote, as it did in Phoolpur and Gorakhpur bye-elections, did not match with Rahul Gandhi’s commitment to take on the BJP with all seriousness. If the Congress Party has to penetrate into the states where it has been key player in the past, it has to win back the trust of the electorate by presenting a new image of the Congress Party, away from the traditional arrogance of its leaders and break the barriers between the people and the leadership. It should also learn to accommodate the aspirations of the small regional players.
As for the Muslim electorate, it goes without saying that this election is going to be very crucial in the history of Indian elections. Crucial in the sense, that it will determine the future of Indian polity and democracy, secularism and pluralism and their rights to justice, freedom and practice their faith as guaranteed by the constitution. In a nutshell, this election would be a fight for the supremacy of the constitution and restoration of democratic norms and values. They have to be extra watchful and cautiously evaluate the prospect of the winning candidate and do not get swayed away by the prejudice and emotions. But all this has to be done very quietly away from the newspaper statement, TV studio discussion and insane video uploads on the social media.
The Muslim clergies and seminaries should also refrain from announcing their support in favor of any particular political party or a candidate and leave it to the wisdom and political understanding of the electorate or to the local leadership at most.
A constituency level think-tank jointly formed by the influential Muslims and secular Hindus would be far more beneficial than a nation- wide support appeals, which at times has proved to be counter-productive. The only mantra which is going to work is to silently and tactfully vote in favor of the candidate who is in a better position to defeat the BJP and its allies.
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